With so many issues already going on these days- Climate change, plastic pollution, deforestation, loss of coral reefs & biodiversity, water scarcity, just to name a few - the fashion industry is not necessarily top of mind for most people as either a problem or solution. Unfortunately, we have got some bad news for you - the clothing industry is dirty and a significant contributor to environmental & human damage. Good news is that sustainable fashion addresses many of these issues in ways you may not expect.
WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE FASHION?
Sustainable fashion is a movement and process of fostering change to fashion products and the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice. Sustainable fashion concerns more than just addressing fashion textiles or products. It comprises addressing the whole system of fashion.
In simple words,
Sustainable or slow fashion encourages the use of locally produced, biodegradable fabrics which have little to no adverse effects on the environment. So these fabrics can eventually return to the ecosystem, once you are done wearing them. If the textile goes back to the earth and does not end up in landfills, it will create lesser wastage.
Therefore, as an aware consumer, you must make sure that you buy sustainable or Eco-friendly fabrics from brands that are conscious of their carbon footprints.
5 REASONS WHY SUSTAINABLE FASHION MATTERS ?
SAVES WATER: The fashion industry consumes a lot of water due to the dyeing and finishing processes for almost all garments. For ex- Cotton in particular is highly dependent on water, but is usually grown in hot and dry areas where water is a scarce resource already. By contrast, organic cotton reduces water consumption by 91% as opposed to conventional cotton. However, only 1% of global cotton production to date is organic.
Other sustainable fabrics that require little to no water during the production phase include linen, hemp & recycled fibers like recycled cotton.
2. LESS ANIMALS ARE HARMED: Animals are an essential aspect of our ecosystem but the fashion industry loves to kill for fashion.
It’s estimated that the leather industry alone is slaughtering and killing over 430 million animals per year.
Sustainable fashion brands have started to increasingly embrace the use of cruelty-free alternatives, and there’s one for nearly every piece of fashion materials - polyester made with trash from the oceans (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?), bags created from recycled seat belts, plant-based compo-stable sneakers, silk created from yeast, and bio-fabricated vegan wool.
You can save animals by choosing sustainable clothing brands (PS- list of brands will be mentioned in the next blog) or you can use Human-made fibers, recycled materials, and bamboo are viable alternatives that these sustainable fashion brands rely on as an alternative to animal products. This way, several animals are spared harm, abuse, and death, preserving the ecosystem's balance.
3. REDUCTION IN TEXTILE WASTE: Globally, large amount of textile waste is dumped at a landfill or burnt every second.
Fast fashion is mainly responsible for this textile waste as big brands keep changing their collections according to the seasons & hence brands are left with a lot of dead stock.
On the other hand, sustainable brands focus on clothing quality, using long-lasting materials in their clothing production. Sustainable fashion brands rarely follow fast fashion trends. They focus on classic and timeless pieces rather than pushing new collections weekly that force customers to buy more. It is important for consumers to change their shopping behavior by buying stuff which can at least be worn 30 times by them.
4. SUPPORTS FAIRER & SAFER WORKING CONDITIONS: Fast fashion brands do an excellent job keeping clothing prices low, making them popular & affordable . However, this low clothing cost is made possible by harsh working conditions for garment workers like Minimum wages (if at all), endless working hours, unacceptable health & safety conditions.
For example, the Bangladesh Fire incident- More than 100 workers died in a massive garment factory fire in Bangladesh the weekend of Nov. 24-25, highlighting safety concerns for Bangladeshi workers in this industry and prompting labor groups to urge major clothing brands to take a stand against unsafe factory conditions.
Sustainable brands show a larger purpose towards creating economic opportunities for those in need to end poverty. We all want to feel great about our clothes, and that includes feeling great about knowing under what conditions they were made. The well-being of people involved are just as valuable as the environment and animals, don’t you think?
5. REDUCES CARBON FOOTPRINT: The fast fashion industry leaves a large carbon footprint behind as part of its operations, such as textile waste, water pollution, other negative impacts on the environment, thus contributing massively and actively to global warming.
One of the main reason is that Fast fashion clothing is often made from petroleum-based materials, including acrylic, nylon, and polyester, which also require a significant amount of energy during production.
Whereas Sustainable brands on the other side often use materials from natural or recycled fabrics that require significantly less to no chemical treatment, little water, less energy and no fertilizers or pesticides to grow. Sustainable brands tend to favor local production, sourcing local materials, and employing local artisans. In addition to boosting local economies, these businesses eliminate the need for frequent transportation, reducing greenhouse emissions and making the planet more sustainable.
Many sustainable fashion consumers attest to finding enjoyment in clothes that truly reflect their styles. Sustainable fashion is an excellent way to build a new wardrobe of great, quality clothes that reflect you. It helps fashion cycle to continue so that one can also use their mom/ grand-mom's classic, timeless, and high-quality pieces, and and create something new and trendy. This diverse range of choices gives wearers more opportunity to be creative, express themselves, and craft a distinct personal style.
Since Apparel industry plays a big role in our daily lives, it’s an extremely accessible avenue for us all to affect change and that is why I believe that it is very important to know the “WHY” of any problem that exists.
But being aware of all the downsides of this industry will hopefully lead to more conscious consumerism. One that is planet, animal & people friendly.
At the end of the day, we can choose if we want to be part of the problem, or part of the solution.
What is your take on Sustainable Fashion? Mention Below